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Floaters And Flashes

What are Floaters?


Floaters look like small specks, dots, circles, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision.  While they appear to be in front of your eye, they are floating inside.


Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous that fills your eye.  What you see are the shadows these clumps cast on the retina.  You usually notice floaters when looking at something plain, like a blank wall or a blue sky.


As we age, our vitreous becomes more watery and shrinks.  Sometimes clumps or strands for in the vitreous.  Often between age 50-70 years of age, the vitreous will pull away from the back of the eye.  This is known as a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD).

They are not serious, and they tend to fade or go away over time.  They seldom require treatment or surgery.


You are more likely to get floaters if you:


  • are nearsighted

  • have had surgery for cataracts

  • have had inflammation inside the eye

What are Flashes?


Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision.  Some people compare them to seeing "stars" after being hit on the head.  You might see flashes on and off for weeks or months.  Flashes occur when the vitreous rubs or pulls on your retina.  As we age, it is common to see flashes occasionally.



When Floaters and Flashes are serious


Most floaters and flashes are not a problem.  However, there are times when they can be a sign of a serious condition.  You should call your eye doctor right away if:


  • you notice a lot of new floaters

  • you have a lot of flashes

  • a shadow appears in your peripheral (side) vision

  • a gray curtain covers part of your vision


These floaters and flashes could be symptoms of a torn or detached retina.  This is when the retina pulls away from the back of the eye.  This is a serious condition that needs to be treated.



Flashes and Migraines


Sometimes people have light flashes that look like jagged lines or heat waves.  These can occur in one or both eyes and may last up to twenty minutes.  This type of flash may be caused by a migraine.  A migraine is a spasm of blood vessels in the brain.  


When you get a headache after these flashes, it is called a migraine headache.  Sometimes, the flashes will occur and are not followed by a headache.  This is called an "ophthalmic migraine" or "migraine without headache".


Area of PVD


Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)

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